Book review: Agile Excellence for Product Managers

Agile product management is a very interesting and dynamic area. In a post a few months ago I explored how agile product management differs from ‘traditional’ product management using a great book by Roman Pichler as a reference. I’ve just finished “Agile Excellence for Product Managers” by Greg Cohen which outlines the key principles of Agile product management.

In his book, Greg Cohen describes with a good amount of practical detail the role that Agile can play in managing a product throughout its lifecycle. Unlike many other books, the diagrams in this book are relevant and provide a good starting point for applying some of the Agile tools yourself.

I found the book particularly useful with respect to the following areas:

  1. What does a (good) product manager do? – Cohen explains how the product manager acts as the voice of the customer in development and makes sure that the right product gets built.
  2. Linkage between business strategy, product strategy and roadmap – The book does really well in going beyond the pure delivery aspect of software development, by outlining the way a business strategy should translate into a product strategy and roadmap.
  3. Minimum marketable feature – I already knew about this concept, but it was good to see the underlying principle reinforced in this book and to understand how product managers can build on these minimum but key product features (see also “Software by numbers” by Mark Denne and Jane Cleland-Huang).
  4. Constraint card – The book mentions the use of constraint cards as introduced by Mike Cohn in User stories applied. I like how these simple cards provide a structured and comprehensive way of assessing product viability, taking into account common constraints such as performance and portability.
  5. Prioritisation matrix – Again, another structured way to approach a common theme for most product managers, “how to best prioritise product improvements, new features and requests from stakeholders?” Applying and weighing predetermined criteria is a good way of removing some of the randomness that can be involved in software development and subsequent iterations.

Main learning point: this is a very useful book for product managers, using Cohen’s practical tools and tips to develop and iterate (digital) products. The book does a good job in explaining how Agile techniques can be applied to product managing, developing a product and managing through its lifecycle. It has given me plenty of ideas and tools that I can use on a day-to-day basis, which I think is a good indicator of the value of “Agile Excellence for Product Managers”. Definitely one I’d recommend to all product managers who are looking to apply Agile to their approach or processes.

Related links for further learning:

http://www.agile-excellence.com/home.html

http://www.softwarebynumbers.org/default.htm

http://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/books/2-user-stories-applied-for-agile-software-development

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